Things we did right
We booked a luxurious serviced apartment, at exactly ten times the price of our most expensive hotel six years ago (way back when we were both child- and penniless). It was clean, it was spacious, it had separate bedrooms so the children could nap while we also napped, but in a different room. So we could have stayed awake, had we wanted to. There was the option. Nothing is more luxurious than having options.
We had our first lunch at the Marriott hotel with the unbelievable buffet including several tables filled with cheese 'n things, a salad bar, chaat makers, prata twirlers, veg Indian food, non-veg Indian food, pizza and fresh pasta and of course a central bounty island of desserts.
Also: we didn't really care what the children ate, as long as they ate (this has to do with sleep: non-eating children are also non-sleeping children in our household). This is why E. and J. survived on yoghurt, cereal and bananas for four days and why E. was allowed three desserts at the Marriott without taking a single bite of her naan bread (let alone try the saagh paneer, silly little girl).
We accepted the fact that traffic does not move in Mumbai and instead spent our time gazing out of the window at all the wonders passing us by, spotting coloured sarees, counting the goats, counting the goddesses, evading curious cows sticking their head through the car windows.
The most important thing we did right: we prioritized seeing people over everything else. So we hopped over to Lonavla for lunch to meet friends, we had chaat at what is undoubtedly the most beautiful condo in all of Mumbai, we took a walk along the beach and we saw almost nothing of the city. Or we saw everything, the whole teeming with life madness of it, but none of the actual sights.
Things we did wrong
Two five hour night flights in four days seemed like a bad idea and it was. The only good thing about it was that because all of us skipped two nights in four days we had no problem with jet lag either way, being bone tired and just happy to sleep.
The first night we decided to go into town to Leopold's for old times sake. Not only did it take us an hour and a half to get there, by the time we were there it was filled with beer drinking tourists and locals who did not quite know how to react to two blond babies thrown into their clubbing mix. And then it took us another hour and a half to get back.
I did not bring baby food*, stupidly assuming that I'd be able to get some non-salt pureed food for baby J. on the go. Somehow, I had forgotten that whenever we go on holiday E. will simply refuse all food on some sort of unknown principle, and will only eat things that are white (rice, bread, oatmeal, yoghurt, banana, potato, shrimp, crab, fish)** and mango. Baby J. while fond of his food, is actually not as good an eater as his sister (although size wise, you'd never know). So why I assumed things would simply work out, looking back, I have no idea.
* I brought milk powder, several bottles of water, baby cereal, endless amounts of rice cakes, bread sticks and raisins and enough bananas to feed a monkey forest. I am not completely stupid.
**Fried rice is no longer white and thus not fit for consumption. Chicken may be white, but is a hard sell at home too.
We had no itinerary, but tried to wing it. This is not advisable in mad, gloriously unpredictable Mumbai. We should have picked an activity for each day and stuck with that, keeping the daily routine as normal as possible, instead of faffing around trying to do several things, ignoring nap schedules and sleeping times and ending up with two slightly crazed babes in arm.
It worked, and we had a two days of near comatose kids after we came back, but maybe next time we should be slightly more gentle with those two tiny treasures, give them a chance to recuperate and actually enjoy the city.
So, what did the children enjoy?
E. spotted masses of birds everywhere, she got to push baby J. in a rocking cot, there was a yelling turkey at some point and a tiger-shaped hill that nobody could spot, she got to build a bed out of several chairs at the Marriott, after much coaxing I finally managed to hook her on mango lassi and the kid in the condo had this amazing toy kitchen and they watched cartoons.
Baby J. was particularly taken with the big bronze bell in the serviced apartment, had a lot of fun in the shower, discovered the joys of crawling underneath chairs and shaking them and took a great dislike to taxi's (sleeping in cars is so 8 months old).
Don't do this. But if you do, skip the nights, book a lovely serviced apartment, bring all the child food you can carry, order in all the other food, treat taxi's as sight seeing tours and above all, go and meet friends.